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Low-Carbon Retrofit provides transformational building for London South Bank University

BDP’s multidisciplinary design team has completed the refurbishment of London South Bank University’s London Road building to increase the provision of flexible teaching and learning space in the heart of the campus.

Conceived as the LSBU hub, the extensive refurbishment and redesign brings together a library, lecture theatres, fitness facilities, teaching rooms, informal learning spaces, and catering amenities to support students and staff, as well as providing services for the local community.

Located north of Elephant and Castle, the existing 1970s concrete-framed building is the largest academic building on LSBU’s main campus, providing approximately 20% of the University’s total teaching and learning space. An initial feasibility study undertaken in 2018 identified the negative impact of the blank external façades, warren-like interiors, and poor accessibility provisions on the building’s users. The university identified the need to allow the building to work in a communal, cooperative, and collaborative way while retaining the key large volumes of the building on the constricted site. 

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BDP’s town planners gained full planning consent for the redevelopment in 2019. The planning strategy addressed an existing Section 106 legal obligation requiring the University to provide community sports provision from the building, allowing it to obtain replacement facilities to avoid interruption of this local service to its students and the community.

The construction project removed many of the internal walls converting the cellularised teaching and office space into an open plan library, student skills and department-specific teaching space whilst retaining some of the existing spaces such as the sports hall, lecture theatres and media studio. The façade has been significantly upgraded providing both improved thermal performance including solar glare control, and improved acoustic performance, which is critical for noise reduction on London Road.

BDP worked to find building services solutions that worked with the deep concrete downstand beams and designed them to be compatible with the estate-wide systems and maintenance strategies.  Simple, robust design solutions have been implemented throughout the building. Mechanical ventilation is provided for the majority of spaces with minimum fresh air supplemented by space heating and cooling.

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Laura Smith, Engineering Director at BDP, explains: “The LSBU Hub refurbishment has improved the building by creating bright, well-ventilated, and comfortable spaces. A simple but innovative environmentally-conscious approach has been implemented throughout from large scale interventions through to smaller scale solutions. We are excited for the building to be used by the local community, LSBU staff and students, including our own apprentices, shaping the future for the next generation of built environment designers.”

The existing structure was largely retained, saving 65% on embodied carbon which is just under half of the 2030 RIBA benchmark targets, and incorporates carbon fibre strengthening in areas where it needed further reinforcement. The existing blank tiled façade has been overclad with insulation and brick to increase thermal performance and upgrade its appearance. The building has achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating.

Carol Rose, Executive Director of Estates and Academic Environment at London South Bank University (LSBU) said: “It’s fantastic to see the new LSBU Hub on London Road now open. It is a highly functional, bright open space which gives staff, students and visitors a great experience. The building now provides modern fitness facilities, refurbished lecture theatres, a high-tech library, exhibition space and a wide ride range of social learning and group work spaces to support our students on their university journey.”

The building will open to students at the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

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